"We could've continued and gone on and on, getting more technical, using orchestras and everything else which we didn't particularly want to. We took a look at ourselves, and we wanted to do a rock album" - Tony Iommi on Black Sabbath's predecessor "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath."
Despite lead singer Ozzy Osbourne's doubts regarding Iommi's statement on "Sabotage" returning to the band's heavy roots, it is clear throughout the entirety of this album that Sabbath ARE a metal band. From the sludgey, down-tuned bass work of Geezer Butler, the crunching tones and annihilating riffs of guitar genius Iommi and Bill Ward's insane drum fill demonstrations, "Sabotage" proves that Sabbath are everything they were and more. There is an added sense of experimentalism on this album, "Don't Start (Too Late)" being the first example of this; an acoustic interlude listed - strangely - as the second track on the album and cutting the solid "Hole In The Sky" dead. This transition is odd upon the first listen, but once THAT riff (I am of course referring to "Symptom of the Universe" here!) kicks in, I think you'll find it in your hearts to forgive this little hitch!
We also experience the introduction of some new concepts to Sabbath further on in the album; the creepy echo effects used on Ozzy's voice at the beginning of "Megalomania", the utilisation of synthesizers (yes synthesizers!!) in the introduction of "Am I Going Insane" and used to great effect in "Thrill of it All." "Supertzar" is also very different to typical Sabbath - almost gothic - featuring operatic vocals and harmonies which compliment Iommi's magnificent riffage in a quest to maintain Sabbath's hard rock sound whilst branching out to in an attempt to display just how versatile and creative this group can be.
One of the most stand out aspects of "Sabotage" for me personally, is the fantastic energy and richness of Ozzy's voice, always managing to break through Geezer's rumbling bass and Tony's crisp guitar work. A perfect example of this can be heard in "Symptom of the Universe"; despite Ozbourne simply screaming "yeaaaaaaaaah" above Bill Ward's epic drum rolls, it is evident here that he simply is a cut above the rest, and is absolutely perfect for Sabbath's distinct style. I have only provided one example of Ozzy's fine vocal work, however upon listening to the album in full, you'll notice that his voice never loses it's power or momentum. Ok, maybe it does a little during "Am I Going Insane", but this is quickly redeemed through the final, and very mysterious track "The Writ".
Something else that I pinpointed in this album is the continual use of dynamics and the quartet's ability to elaborate and build the song at hand e.g. "Megalomania" which begins with a slow pre-chorus which gradually snowballs into the chorus. Black Sabbath have the rare ability to pound out an ear shatteringly heavy riff and then transition into the most tranquil outro before you can even begin to question how! It's almost as if Sabbath can package three songs into one without loosing any of the song's focus because it just flows so well! Take "Thrill of it All" to test this hypothesis, and you will find than within the first MINUTE that you've already heard three distinctive riffs. Parts of a song can even be repeated more than three times without becoming tedious due to the rich context of that single section; an enduring trait which only Sabbath seem to be able to pull off.
A vast majority of metal fan's that I've met in my experience have not actually listened to a Black Sabbath album - as weird as that may sound. Yes they probably own their greatest hits or have heard their best works, but you'll be surprised at how many do not own one of their releases. If this relates to you, then I highly recommend doing so; through listening to "Sabatage" in it's entirity, I found that listening to this ground-breaking band is not only a fantastic experience, but it's an adventure in itself. See what Sabbath manage to is; begin at one, distinct point, before constructing the song along the way, leaving the listener completely unaware of where they're going to end up! That's the sheer beauty of Sabbath that has aided them in maintaining their "top dog" spot in heavy metal history. I suggest you listen, digest and enjoy!